Vivid Memories

February 7, 2010By Claudia BarbieriArchive

Pioneering Foundation
Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Paris Update Kingelez Fondation Cartier

“Projet pour le Kinshasa du Troisième Millenaire” (1997), by Bodys Isek Kingelez. © Bodys Isek Kingelez. Photo © André Morin

The Fondation Cartier began a year-long celebration of its 30th anniversary this month. Its distinctive Jean Nouvel-designed glass building is hosting a two-part exhibition, beginning with the show “Vivid Memories,” presenting highlights from the hundred-odd exhibitions it has put together in the past three decades.

The story began in 1984, when the luxury jewelry house Cartier became the first private enterprise in France to create a foundation to support contemporary art. It was a groundbreaking initiative, leading the way to France’s first law establishing a legal and fiscal framework for sponsorship, passed in 1987.

Three principles have defined the foundation’s approach over the years: to allow the artists it works with full freedom of expression; to promote intersecting relationships between different creative media; and to maintain a total separation between the foundation and its parent, the Cartier jewelry company.

The building itself was conceived by Nouvel as an open and transparent space that would allow artists liberty of expression unfettered by constraining walls, allowing them to create on almost any scale. An example is the Australian designer Marc Newson’s 2004 concept jet plane, “Kelvin 40,” which dominates the main exhibition space. Eight meters long, with an eight-meter wing span, it looks like an ultralight toy version of a billionaire’s private stealth bomber.

The foundation has always aimed to show unknown artists alongside well-known ones, an unusual approach among contemporary art museums. It has a sharp eye for talent, and its unknown artists have often gone on to become household names. In its 30-year life, it has commissioned 800 works for its own collection, many of which will be on show over the coming year; the list reads like a Who’s Who of international contemporary creative practice.

On a giant screen, a day-long loop shows art films and archived video material by the likes of David Lynch, William Kentridge, Raymond Depardon, Nan Goldin and Agnès Varda.

Hanging from the ceiling, an installation by fashion designer Issey Miyake, “Shadow Sculptures,” is made entirely from plastic bottles – as are the Issey Miyake uniforms worn by the exhibition guides.

Richard Artschwager’s giant question mark and Takashi Kitano’s installation of childish animal toys transformed into symbols of weaponry stand near an Alessandro Mendini sculpture, “Dürer’s Cavalier,” covered with a shimmering mosaic in red, black and silver.

Downstairs, an 18-foot-long monotonal sound table piece by Dennis Oppenheim occupies the centre of the main space. In a neighbouring room is a mountainous Ron Mueck sculpture 

Paris Update Mueck Fondation Cartier

 “In Bed” (2005), by Ron Mueck. © Ron Mueck. Photo © Patrick Gries

of a worried-looking woman sitting up in bed, overwhelming in its startling realism. The two spaces are linked by Mario Merz’s “La Tartaruga,” a wall installation combining a tortoise and a series of Fibonacci numbers in neon.

In the garden, Miyake’s self-folding lights are scattered among the flower beds, while “La Pouce” by César, the French sculptor who first suggested the creation of the foundation to Cartier’s then-director Alain Dominique Perrin, gives a triumphant thumbs-up to the show, a fitting tribute to the Fondation Cartier’s eclecticism and innovative approach.

Claudia Barbieri

Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain: 261, boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris. Métro: Raspail. Tel.: 01 42 18 56 50. Open Tuesday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Closed Monday. Admission: €10.50. Through September 21, 2014.

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